The City of God
Translated by Marcus DODS, D.D.
(Book IV translated by the Rev. George WILSON,
Books V & VIII by the Rev. J.J. SMITH)
The Modem Library
New York 1950
American University of Beirut
The City of God
(sack of Rome not to be blamed on Christian prohibition of worship of pagan gods)
Preface: explaining his design in undertaking this work
THE glorious city of God is my theme in this work, which you, my dearest son Marcellinus, suggested, and which is due to you by my promise. I have undertaken its defence against those who prefer their own gods to the Founder of this city ( ... ) as the plan of this work we have undertaken requires, and as occasion offers, we must speak also of the earthly city, which, though it be mistress of the nations, is itself ruled by its lust of rule.
I.1. Of the adversaries of the name of Christ, whom the barbarians for
Christ's sake spared when they stormed the city
For to this earthly city belong the enemies against whom I have to defend the city of God. Many of them, indeed, being reclaimed from their ungodly error, have become sufficiently creditable citizens of this city; but many are so inflamed with hatred against it, and are so ungrateful to its Redeemer for His signal benefits, as to forget that they would now be unable to utter a single word to its prejudice, had they not found in its sacred places, as they fled from the enemy's steel, that life in which they now boast themselves. Are not those very Romans, who were spared by the barbarians through their respect for Christ, become enemies to the name of Christ?
( ... ) For of those whom you see insolently and shamelessly insulting the servants of Christ, there are numbers who would not have escaped that destruction and slaughter had they not pretended that they themselves were Christ's servants. Yet now, in ungrateful pride and most impious madness, and at the risk of being punished in everlasting darkness, they perversely oppose that name under which they fraudulently protected themselves for the sake of enjoying the light of this brief life.
I.11. Of the end of this life, whether it is material that it be long delayed
But, it is added, many Christians were slaughtered, and were put to death in a hideous variety of cruel ways. Well, if this be hard to bear, it is assuredly that common lot of all who are born into this life. Of this at least I am certain, that no one has ever died who was not destined to die some time. Now the end of life puts the longest life on a par with the shortest. For of two things which have alike ceased to be, the one is not better, the other worse the one greater, the other less. And of what consequence is it what kind of death puts an end to life, since he who has died once is not forced to go through the same ordeal a second time? And as in the daily casualties of life every man is, as it were, threatened with numberless deaths, so long as it remains uncertain which of them is his fate, I would ask whether it is not better to suffer one and die, than to live in fear of all? I am not unaware of the poor spirited fear which prompts us to choose rather to live long in fear of so many deaths, than to die once and so escape them all, but the weak and cowardly shrinking of the flesh is one thing, and the wellconsidered and reasonable persuasion of the soul quite another. That death is not to be judged an evil which is the end of a good life, for death becomes evil only by the retribution which follows it. They then who are destined to die, need not be careful to inquire what death they are to die, but into what place death will usher them. And since Christians are well aware that the death of the godly pauper whose sores the dogs licked was far better than of the wicked rich man who lay in purple and fine linen, what harm could these terrific deaths do to the dead who had lived well?
1.35. Of the sons of the church who are hidden among the wicked, and of
false Christians within the church
(…) the redeemed family of the Lord Christ, (…) the pilgrim city of Christ. But let this city bear in mind, that among her enemies lie hid those who are destined to be fellow citizens ( ... ). So too, as long as she is a stranger in the world, the city of God has in her communion, and bound to her by the sacraments, some who shall not eternally dwell in the lot of the saints. Of these, some are not now recognised; others declare themselves, and do not hesitate to make common cause with our enemies in murmuring against God, whose sacramental badges they wear. ( ... ) In truth, these two cities are entangled together in this world, and intermixed until the last judgment effect their separation. I now proceed to speak, as God shall help me, of the rise, progress, and end of these two cities, and what I write, I write for the glory of the city of God, that, being placed in comparison with the other, it may shine with a brighter lustre.
(God the one author of felicity)
IV.23. Concerning Felicity, whom the Romans, who venerate many gods,
for a long time did not worship with divine honour, though she alone
would have sufficed instead of all
But how does it happen, if their books and rituals are true, and Felicity is a goddess, that she herself is not appointed as the only one to be worshipped, since she could confer all things, and all at once make men happy? For who wishes anything for any other reason than that he may become happy? ( ... ) Felicity, however, is certainly more valuable than a kingdom. For no one doubts that a man might easily be found who may fear to be made a king, but no one is found who is unwilling to be happy. Therefore, if it is thought they can be consulted by augury, or in any other way, the gods themselves should be consulted about this thing, whether they may wish to give place to Felicity. If, perchance, the place should already be occupied by the temples and altars of others, where a greater and more lofty temple might be built to Felicity, even Jupiter himself might give way, so that Felicity might rather obtain the very pinnacle of the Capitoline hill. For there is not any one who would resist Felicity, except, which is impossible, one who might wish to be unhappy. (...)
Thus the goddess Felicity being established in the largest and loftiest place, the citizens should learn whence the furtherance of every good desire should be sought. And so, by the persuasion of nature herself, the superfluous multitude of other gods being abandoned, Felicity alone would be worshipped, prayer would be made to her alone, her temple alone would be frequented by the citizens who 'wished to be happy, which no one of them would not wish; and thus felicity; who was sought for from all the gods, would be sought for only from her own self. For who wishes to receive from any god anything else than felicity, or what he supposes to tend to felicity? ( ... ) But if Felicity is not a goddess, because, as is true, it is a gift of God, that god must be sought who has power to give it, and that hurtful multitude of false gods must be abandoned which the vain multitude of foolish men follows after, making gods to itself of the gifts of God, and offending Himself whose gifts they are by the stubbornness of a proud will. For he cannot be free from infelicity who worships Felicity as
goddess, and forsakes God, the giver of felicity; just as he cannot be free from hunger who licks a painted loaf of bread, and does not buy it of the man who has a real one.
IV.33. That the times of all kings and kingdoms are ordained by the
judgment and power of the true God
Therefore that God, the author and giver of felicity, because he alone is the true God, Himself gives earthly kingdoms both to good and bad. Neither does He do this rashly, and, as it were, fortuitously because He is God, not fortune but according to the order of things and times, which is hidden from us, but thoroughly known to Himself; which same order of things, however, He does not serve as subject to it, but Himself rules as lord and appoints as governor. Felicity He gives only to the good. Whether a man be a subject or a king makes no difference: he may equally either possess or not possess it. And it shall be full in that life where kings and subjects exist no longer. And therefore earthly kingdoms are given by Him both to the good and the bad; lest His worshippers, still under the conduct of a very weak mind, should covet these gifts from Him as some great things.
(on freedom of the will; God's foreknowledge; what is called Fate; & Roman virtue)
V.9. Concerning the foreknowledge of God and the free will of man, in
opposition to the definition of Cicero
For, to confess that God exists, and at the same time to deny that He has foreknowledge of future things, is the most manifest folly. ( ... )
But, let these perplexing debatings and disputations of the philosophers go on as they may, we, in order that we may confess the most high and true God Himself, do confess His will, supreme power, and prescience. Neither let us be afraid lest, after all, we do not do by will that which we do by will, because He, whose foreknowledge is infallible, foreknew that we would do it. It was this which Cicero was afraid of, and therefore opposed foreknowledge. The Stoics also maintained that all things do not come to pass by necessity, although they contended that all things happen according to destiny. What is it, then, that Cicero feared in the prescience of future things? Doubtless it was this that if all future things have been foreknown, they will happen in the order in which they have been foreknown; and if they came to pass in this order there is a certain order of things foreknown by God; and if a certain order of things, then a certain order of causes, for nothing can happen which is not preceded by some efficient cause. But if there is a certain order of causes according to which everything happens which does happen, then by fate, says he, all things happen which do happen. But if this be so, then is there nothing in our own power, and there is no such thing as freedom of will; and if we grant that, says he, the whole economy of human life is subverted. In vain are laws enacted. In vain are reproaches, praises, chidings exhortations had recourse to; and there is no justice whatever in the appointment of rewards for the good and punishments for the wicked. And that consequences, so disgraceful and absurd, and pernicious to humanity may not follow, Cicero chooses to reject the foreknowledge of future things, and shuts up the religious mind to this alternative, to make choice between two things, either that something is in our own power, or that there is foreknowledge both of which cannot be true; but if the one is affirmed, the other is thereby denied. He therefore, like a truly great and wise man, and one who consulted very much and very skillfully for the good of humanity, of those two chose the freedom of the will, to confirm which he denied the foreknowledge of future things; and thus, wishing to make men free, he makes them sacrilegious. But the religious mind chooses both, confesses both, and maintains both by the faith of piety. (…)
Now, against the sacrilegious and impious darings of reason, we assert both that God knows all things before they come to pass, and that we do by our free will whatsoever we know and feel to be done by us only because we will it. But that all things come to pass by fate, we do not say; nay we affirm that nothing comes to pass by fate; for we demonstrate that the name of fate, as it is wont to be used by those who speak of fate, meaning thereby the position of the stars at the time of each one's conception or birth, is an unmeaning word, for astrology itself is a delusion. But an order of causes in which the highest efficiency is attributed to the will of God, we neither deny nor do we designate it by the name of fate, unless, perhaps, we may understand fate to mean that which is spoken, deriving it from fari, 'to speak'; ( ... ) Now the expression, "Once hath He spoken," is to be understood as meaning "immovably," that is, unchangeably hath He spoken, inasmuch as He knows unchangeably all things which shall be, and all things which He will do. We might, then, use the word fate in the sense it bears when derived from fari, 'to speak', had it not already come to be understood in another sense, into which I am unwilling that the hearts of men should unconsciously slide. But it does not follow that, though there is for God a certain order of all causes, there must .therefore be nothing depending on the free exercise of our own wills, for our wills themselves are included in that order of causes which is certain to God, and is embraced by His foreknowledge, for human wills are also causes of human actions; and He who foreknew all the causes of things would certainly among those causes not have been ignorant of our wills.
( ... ) For one who is not prescient of all future things is not God. Wherefore our wills also have just so much power as God willed and foreknew that they should have, and therefore whatever power they have, they have it within most certain limits, and whatever they are to do, they are most assuredly to do, for He whose foreknowledge is infallible foreknew that they would have the power to do it, and would do it. Wherefore, if I should choose to apply the name of fate to anything at all, I should rather say that fate belongs to the weaker of two parties, will to the stronger, who has the other in his power, than that the freedom of our will is excluded by that order of causes, which, by an unusual application of the word peculiar to themselves, the Stoics call Fate.
V.10 Whether our wills are ruled by necessity
(…) Therefore, whatsoever a man suffers contrary to his own will, he ought not to attribute to the will of men, or of angels, or of any created spirit, but rather to His will who gives power to wills. It is not the case, therefore, that because God foreknew what would be in the power of our wills, there is for that reason nothing in the power of our wills. For he who foreknew this did not foreknow nothing. Moreover, if He who foreknew what would be in the power of our wills did not foreknow nothing, but something, assuredly, even though He did foreknow, there is something in the power of our wills. Therefore we are by no means compelled, either, retaining the prescience of God, to take away the freedom of the will, or, retaining the freedom of the will, to deny that He is prescient of future things, which is impious. But we embrace both. We faithfully and sincerely confess both. The former, that we may believe well; the latter, that we may live well. For he lives ill who does not believe well concerning God. Wherefore, be it far from us, in order to maintain our freedom, to deny the prescience of Him by whose help we are or shall be free. Consequently, it is not in vain that laws are enacted, and that reproaches, exhortations, praises, and vituperations are had recourse to; for these also He foreknew, and they are of great avail , even as great as He foreknew that they would be of. Prayers, also, are of avail to procure those things which He foreknew that He would grant to those who offered them; and with justice have rewards been appointed for good deeds, and punishments for sins. For a man does not therefore sin because God foreknew that he would sin. Nay, it cannot be doubted but that it is the man himself who sins when he does sin, because He, whose foreknowledge is infallible, foreknew not that fate, or fortune, or something else would sin, but that the man himself would sin, who, if he wills not, sins not. But if he shall not will to sin, even this did God foreknow.
V.16. Concerning the reward of the holy citizens of the celestial city, to
whom the example of the virtues of the Roman are useful
But the reward of the saints is far different, who even here endured reproaches for that city of God which is hateful to the lovers of this world. That city is eternal. There none are born, for none die. There is true and full felicity not a goddess, but a gift of God. Thence we receive the pledge of faith, whilst on our pilgrimage we sigh for its beauty. There rises not the sun on the good and the evil, but the Sun of Righteousness protects the good alone. There no great industry shall be expended to enrich the public treasury by suffering privations at home, for there is the common treasury of truth. And, therefore, it was not only for the sake of recompensing, the citizens of Rome that her empire and glory had been so signally extended, but also that the citizens of that eternal city, during their pilgrimage here, might diligently and soberly contemplate these examples, and see what a love they owe to the supernal country on account of life eternal, if the terrestrial country was so much beloved by its citizens on account of human glory.
(pretensions of natural theology)
VIII.1. That the question of natural theology is to be discussed with those
philosophers who sought a more excellent wisdom
(…) It is, we say, with philosophers we have to confer with respect to this theology men whose very name, if rendered into Latin, dignifies those who profess the love of wisdom. Now, if wisdom is God, who made all things, as is attested by the divine authority and truth, then the philosopher is a lover of God. But since the thing itself, which is called by this name, exists not in all who glory in the name for it does not follow, of course, that all who are called philosophers are lovers of true wisdom we must needs select from the number of those with whose opinions we have been able to acquaint ourselves by reading, some with whom we may not unworthily engage in the treatment of this question. (…)
(Christ alone can bestow blessedness)
IX.14. Whether men, though mortal, can enjoy true blessedness
It is a great question among men, whether man can be mortal and blessed. Some, taking the humbler view of his condition, have denied that he is capable of blessedness so long as he continues in this mortal life; others, again, have spurned this idea, and have been bold enough to maintain that, even though mortal, men may be blessed by attaining wisdom. But if this be the case, why are not these wise men constituted mediators between miserable mortals and the blessed immortals, since they have blessedness in common with the latter, and mortality in common with the former? Certainly, if they are blessed, they envy no one (for what more miserable than envy?), but seek with all their might to help miserable mortals on to blessedness, so that after death they may become immortal, and be associated with the blessed and immortal angels.
IX.15. Of the man Christ Jesus, the Mediator between God and men
But if, as is much more probable and credible, it must needs be that all men, so long as they are mortal, are also miserable, we must seek an intermediate who is not only man, but also God, that, by the interposition of His blessed mortality, He may bring men out of their mortal misery to a blessed immortality. In this intermediate two things are requisite, that He become mortal, and that He do not continue mortal. He did become mortal, not rendering the divinity of the Word infirm, but assuming the infirmity of the flesh. Neither did He continue mortal in the flesh, but raised it from the dead; for it is the very fruit of His mediation that those, for the sake of
whose redemption He became the Mediator, should not abide eternally in bodily death. Wherefore it became the Mediator between us and God to have both a transient mortality and a permanent blessedness, that by that which is transient He might be assimilated to mortals, and might translate them from mortality to that which is permanent. ( ... )
Man, then, mortal and miserable, and far removed from the immortal and the blessed, what medium shall he choose by which he may be united to immortality and blessedness? The immortality of the demons, which might have some charm for man, is miserable; the mortality of Christ, which might offend man, exists no longer. In the one there is the fear of an eternal misery, in the other, death, which could not be eternal, can no longer be feared, and blessedness, which is eternal, must be loved. ( ... ) But the mortal and blessed Mediator interposed Himself, in order that, having passed through mortality, He might of mortals make immortals (showing His power to do this in His own resurrection), and from being miserable to raise them to the blessed company from the number of whom He had Himself never departed. ( ... ) I do not say that He is Mediator because He is the Word, for as the Word He is supremely blessed and supremely immortal, and therefore far from miserable mortals, but He is Mediator as He is man, for by His humanity He shows us that, in order to obtain that blessed and beatific good, we need not seek other mediators to lead us through the successive steps of this attainment, but that the blessed and beatific God, having Himself become a partaker of our humanity, has afforded us ready access to the participation of His divinity. For in delivering us from our mortality and misery, He does not lead us to the immortal and blessed angels, so that we should become immortal and blessed by participation in their nature, but He leads us straight to that Trinity, by participating in which the angels themselves are blessed. Therefore, when He chose to be in the form of a servant, and lower than the angels, that He might be our Mediator, He remained higher than the angels, in the form of God Himself at once the way of life on earth and life itself in heaven.
(polemic against philosophers on angel worship)
X.l. That the Platonists themselves have determined that God alone can
confer happiness either on angels or men.
It is the decided opinion of all who use their brains, that all men desire to be happy. But who are happy, or how they become so, these are questions, about which the weakness of human understanding stirs endless and angry controversies, in which philosophers have wasted their strength and expended their leisure. (...) we made selection of the Platonists, justly esteemed the noblest of the philosophers, because they had the wit to perceive that the human soul, immortal and rational, or intellectual, as it is, cannot be happy except by partaking of the light of that God by whom both itself and the world were made; and also that the happy life which all men desire cannot be reached by any who does not cleave with a pure and holy love to that one supreme good, the unchangeable God. ( ... )
(Books xi xiv: origin of the two cities Book xii: angels good & bad man created)
XII.l. That the nature of the angels, both good and bad, is one and the same
It has already, in the preceding book, been shown how the two cities originated among the angels. Before I speak of the creation of man, and show how the cities took their rise, so far as regards the race of rational mortals, I see that I must first, so far as I can, adduce what may demonstrate that it is not incongruous and unsuitable to speak of a society composed of angels and men together, so that there are not four cities or societies two, namely, of angels, and as many of men but rather two in all, one composed of the good, the other of the wicked, angels or men indifferently.
That the contrary propensities in good and bad angels have arisen not from a difference in their nature and origin, since God, the good Author and Creator of all essences, created them both, but from a difference in their wills and desires, it is impossible to doubt. While some stedfastly continued in that which was the common good of all, namely, in God Himself, and in His eternity, truth, and love; others, being enamoured rather of their own power, as if they could be their own good, lapsed to this private good of their own, from that higher and beatific good which was common to all, and, bartering the lofty dignity of eternity for the inflation of pride, the most assured verity for the slyness of vanity, uniting love for factious partisanship, they became proud, deceived, envious. The cause, therefore, of the blessedness of the good is adherence to God. And so the cause of the others' misery will, be found in the contrary, that is, in their not adhering to God. Wherefore, if when the question is asked, why are the former blessed, it is rightly answered, because they adhere to God; and when it is asked, why are the latter miserable, it is rightly answered, because they do not adhere to God then there is no other good for the rational or intellectual creature save God only. Thus, though it is not every creature that can be blessed (for beasts, trees, stones, and things of that kind have not this capacity), yet that creature which has the capacity cannot be blessed of itself, since it is created out of nothing, but only by Him by whom it has been created. For it is blessed by the possession of that whose loss makes it miserable. He, then, who is blessed not in another, but in himself, cannot be miserable, because he cannot lose himself.